When I heard about Alice Wingwall, I couldn't believe her story. Alice is a well received modern artist with a devastating problem, she is in the process of loosing her sight.
You would think a photographer loosing their sight would be career ending. Alice accepts her loss of sight, but refuses to give up taking pictures.
Her work in the exhibition Sight Unseen is touring various cities internationally, including Washington D.C. and Mexico City and was also a part of the show Blind at the Museum, organized by the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive.
Here, Alice talks about her work:
83 percent of sight gone. Slivers around the retinal wall still accept and pass light rays and dusky images to the optic nerve. I lovingly caress my cameras. I think that the lens is better than my eye, but I mean that the film itself is perfect, that is, much more perfect than my damaged retina, my much deteriorated back eye wall, which cannot be moved along to a fresh working piece along a spool. There is nothing wrong with the front of my eye, it looks good. Too bad I cannot go out and buy a cassette of retinal wall. Well, I will get a wide angle lens instead. I will set it at f8 and almost everything will be in focus, the way the old Speed Graphics were, held over the heads in crowds. Technology will allow me to keep photographing, that is, high resolution film, in-camera metering. I will keep on, with my training in visual media and my ten years experience, photographing and printing. My sweet darkroom is only five years old. It has a kind of color spectrum lamp hanging from the ceiling, casting a pale peach glow from the top of the room. Yum.
In the cup-half-full mode, I say that I still have 10 percent of my retinal slivers, much slimmer, but functioning in those narrow lines. I make two great decisions. I get my first auto focus camera, one of the Canon EOS family. I sign up for guide dog school and graduate with Joseph, my angel dog, my saint and super photo model. I introduce him to all the buildings I love and have already photographed. Now he gets in many of the building shots. In a way, they become his starter palace dog house, his palatial pup tent. A changed kind of independence has emerged with this auto focusing and this dog direction. Dynamic duo work habits just ignore the beginning questions, “how can you photograph when you cannot see?” Well, there are training, experience, memory and insight.
5 percent full, this now narrow crystal cylinder. Auto focus is splendid in the camera. But there is no auto focus enlarger, and no auto measure for the developing chemicals. I am directed to Eddie, a wonderful black and white printer in San Francisco. We talk about composition and contrast, velvety blacks and tonal ranges. He saves one gorgeous barn image, taken with a red filter, but underexposed. That was a total bitch to print, he says, so do not do that again. Think about your exposure. I was using an old Hasselblad with no meter, and I guessed wrong. I gave up my darkroom and sold the equipment to another photographer. A major move – accepting sight loss and change, but not accepting not photographing. No way, not with the ideas and images that are in this brain of mine. And I cannot stop holding and hugging my several cameras."